James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad introduced the world to John Cena’s Christopher Smith/Peacemaker before the former wrestler’s first major super hero role arrived this week on HBO Max in the eponymous titled spin-off series. Speaking this week on the Happy, Sad, Confused podcast, Cena revealed that he has been on a long hard road of rejection when it comes to trying to get himself cast in a big role with either the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DCEU. Director James Gunn has been more than happy with Cena’s performance as Peacemaker, and his praised the actor throughout production on both of their projects together, yet as Cena explained, he just missed out on some other iconic roles.
“I can’t tell you how many superhero roles I’ve been rejected for. Shazam is certainly one. There was a brief try at the Deadpool universe, rejection,” Cena said in reference to his audition for Cable in Deadpool 2, which would end up being played by Josh Brolin who greedily double-dipped in the Marvel pool by also taking the role of Thanos in the MCU. “Shazam! was Dikembe Mutumbo. There was a few in the Marvel universe, rejected. But you know, I kept trying. I think like a child, so Shazam was super interesting to me. And when I read the script, a lot of times, like… this is the thing, I don’t just chase ‘I want to do this,’ I always have to read it.”
Working With James Gunn Was A No-Brainer For John Cena
By his own admission, Cena wouldn’t necessarily jump onboard a project for anyone, but when it came to working with James Gunn, there was no question about the actor being open to being directed by Gunn. “James Gunn is the only person who gets a free pass. The only reason he gets a free pass is his reputation as a storyteller. He just does not let up, he claws at every piece, and I know it’s gonna be good, because he starts from a blank page and that’s it. But I always read it, I always read the story to make sure one, I like it, and two, it falls within my skillset. I do want to challenge myself, but I don’t want the first time I do something to be on screen for a paying customer. I want to get practice and perform at a level that’s consumer quality.”
After so many rejections, it is not surprising that Cena didn’t expect much from his initial audition for the character of Peacemaker, especially when he was one of the first choices on Gunn’s hit list of actors. He explained:
“I read all those scripts, and I read all those parts, and I was like, ‘Man, I really think I could add to this,’ and just rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection,” Cena said. “But I guess that’s what… the lows make the highs high. And the crazy thing was, I wasn’t first on the list for Peacemaker. James had a long list, and it happened by accident, too. He’s like, ‘Hey, I’m in Atlanta, I’d just love to come and talk to you for a second.’ We sat down in his pre-production office, which was literally like a war headquarters where you could see the whole movie in posterboard taped around his office, and he started talking about Peacemaker, and he’s like, ‘I think you should do it.’ So I’m not rejected? They usually say, like, ‘Hey, love you man, but we’re just going in another direction.'”
The popularity of Cena’s Peacemaker shows that in the end, sometimes things just work out for the best and all of those rejections were essentially saving the actor for a role that he seems to have found a home with. With Gunn willing to make further seasons of Peacemaker if Warner Bros. green light it, there is every chance we haven’t seen the last of Cena’s Christopher Smith just yet.
In Peacemaker, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad spin-off series, we get a primer on the bad guy backstory. What created this ‘bro-y Captain America?’ Those are Cena’s words.
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